San Francisco

San Francisco is a diverse city that often finds itself on the edge of social and technological change. The small city has long been a haven for marginalized groups, but it is also a place that is grappling with its identity in the throes of a tech boom. To really know San Francisco, you must explore its neighborhoods. Look for taquerias and techies in the Mission, rainbow flags flying above the Castro, earnest hippie vibes in the Haight, and beachy quietude in the Sunset. Visitors will find the city welcoming and full of activities for nature lovers, bookworms, shoppers, foodies, cultural mavens, and more.


Photo by Rosangela Perry/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to San Francisco?

San Francisco is renowned for its cold, foggy summers. However, when September and October come around, the character lovingly known as Karl the Fog recedes, and temperatures can climb into the low 80s on the hottest days. Late winter can see some rain, but rarely much. Overall, the unique geography of this peninsula, bound as it is by the Bay and the Pacific, creates pockets of both warm and cool weather all year long. Dress in layers, and be prepared to encounter a range of temperatures as you make your way around the city.

How to get around San Francisco

San Francisco Airport is about 25 minutes from downtown by taxi, which will cost you about $45. The quickest option is to catch an Uber or Lyft. The major public transportation system, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), goes directly from the airport to downtown and across the bridge to the East Bay.

To get around, BART, Muni trains, buses, cable cars, and trams traverse the city. Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are readily available. It’s also fairly easy to rent bicycles through Lyft.

Can’t miss things to do in San Francisco

The far northwestern corner of the city, called Land’s End, is where the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean meet. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands is spectacular here, and active visitors will find it an ideal spot for hiking and trail biking. When you’re done taking in the panoramic vista, take in some timeless works of art at the nearby Legion of Honor.

Read: The 26 Best Things to Do in San Francisco, According to a Local

Food and drink to try in San Francisco

San Francisco is a hotbed for the locavore movement, and destinations like the San Francisco Ferry Building—with farmers’ markets on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays—offer a glimpse at the culinary bounty that grows in the nearby Central Valley of California. Look for fresh, ingredient-driven cuisine at innovative new restaurants (splurge at Saison), iconic standbys (splurge a little less at Zuni), and a vast array of affordable ethnic restaurants. Take your pick from Mexican, Shanghai, Uighur, Hunan, Salvadoran, Ethiopian, Korean, and many more.

Culture in San Francisco

San Francisco is a great museum city, anchored by three landmark buildings. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), de Young Museum, and The Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Travelers will also find a burgeoning gallery scene and street art scene throughout the city. The Bay Area’s legacy as the home of Beat poets, funk artists, and jazz innovators lends additional cultural variety to the mix.

Summer music festivals like Outsidelands and Stern Grove’s weekly concerts provide plenty of entertainment, and June’s Pride Festival is a month-long celebration of equality. On the first Sunday of each month, flea market aficionados should look for the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, a huge market on an old navy base in the nearby East Bay.

Local travel tips for San Francisco

Always pack a jacket. This may be California, but don’t expect to be wearing your flip flops. Summer is all about the fog, although the sun does break through—especially in neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city, such as Noe Valley and the Mission.

Depending on where you’re staying, a car probably won’t be necessary, as public transportation, cabs, and various rideshares will be at your service. However, car rentals are plentiful if you do want to get out of town—traditional rental companies as well as peer-to-peer car sharing services like Getaround, Zipcar, and City CarShare.

If you have time, it’s absolutely worth your while to make a day-trip from the city to see the gorgeous coast and wine country north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
To hear the locals rave, you’ll never drink better coffee or eat a better burrito or share a more authentic pizza than you can here. San Francisco, for its relatively compact size, packs a culinary punch that larger cities never will.
Small boutiques, fragrant bakeries, serious bookstores, and flea markets make up only a tiny portion of the tempting shopping opportunities you can find on the streets of San Francisco. This city takes its local wares seriously!
One day this Spring, let’s skip work and wander. Here’s where you’ll find AFAR employees on their perfect day out of the office (“shhh!”).
The part of San Francisco is full of history and mystery. It is a small area of the city packed full of people many from families from the original immigrants who came over from China by the thousands to seek their fortune in the gold rush. They helped shape the San Francisco that exists today and it is a fascinating neighborhood to explore.
It’s easy to spend weeks in San Francisco without running out of things to do, so if you only have three days in the city you’ll want to make the most of your stay. If you plan right, however, you’ll have time to squeeze the most essential San Francisco experiences into three action-packed days. From the Golden Gate to Alcatraz, museums to must-eats, here is how to best spend three days in the City by the Bay.
The warm, sunny Mission District—with Dolores Park and Mission Dolores as its cultural and physical center—is historically a Latino neighborhood (and before that, Irish). Now bodegas and taquerias sit cheek by jowl with carefully crafted cuisine and locally designed fashion.
Far from the Painted Ladies or the bustle of Chinatown, the Ocean-side Sunset district offers community, rich craftsmanship, and damn good coffee.
San Francisco bars serve food that rivals even that at restaurants with a month-long waitlist. From pickled quail eggs at the Alembic to a kale salad (healthy!) at Trick Dog, these dishes will satisfy all drinkers.
San Francisco is a fantastic city for families, as there are plenty of activities to keep the young ones occupied, and best of all, many of these adventures are pretty parent friendly too. From the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to the famous City Lights Bookstore and the Walt Disney Family Museum, families of all ages will find plenty to do while visiting San Francisco.
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